Monthly bulletin Prava Ludyny (Human rights)
Political will lacking to eradicate torture by the police
On the eve of International Day in support of Victims of Torture Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group told a press conference that it is political will that is badly needed if the use of torture by police officers is to be stopped. He believes that is a systemic problem and requires joint efforts by the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA], the courts, the Prosecutor Generals Office, parliament and society in general.
There are two aspects to the problem: the conditions in temporary holding facilities [ITT] and centres for the reception and distribution of vagrants; and the use of unlawful violence during detective investigation.
There has been improvement, Yevhen Zakharov notes, with regard to conditions in custody. The new mobile groups which include both MIA representatives and members of the public have been instrumental in highlighting problems. Some ITT were closed altogether after investigations were carried out, while in others the conditions have improved. At the same time the lack of funding makes it impossible to all that is necessary to improve conditions.
The problem remains of torture being applied in order to extract confessions. This is despite efforts to stop such practice from MIA management, and the creation of a Department within the MIA for monitoring human rights observance.
He mentions too that the Prosecutor Generals Office does a very bad job in investigating such cases. “If you look at court statistics, you can see that there are a pitiful number of cases under Article 127 of the Criminal Code which punishes for torture. If cases arise, they are more likely than not treated under Article 365, for abuse of ones official position.”
Another problem lies in the governments failure to create an effective system of legal aid where each person detained can have a lawyer called at the States expense to defend their interests when charges are being laid and a decision made as to whether the person should be remanded in custody.
Kateryna Levchenko, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs, pointed out that mobile monitoring groups are an important mechanism for countering torture and ill-treatment in the work of police stations. 41 visits have been made this year, with 377 for the whole of last year. The most widespread infringements uncovered by mobile groups are first of all failure to register people detained in the relevant logbook, failure to tell people detained their rights; the lack of sufficient natural lighting in cells; space per person not complying with norms, and others.
According to information from the Head of the Department within the MIA for monitoring human rights observance, Oleh Martynenko, as the result of MIA reaction to unlawful behaviour by police officers, over the first five months of 2009 17 people were convicted of abuse of power; 40 – of exceeding their powers; 2 – for murder; and one for causing bodily harm. 674 were held to answer for offences of a non-criminal nature. In one case this was for unlawful methods of running an investigation, detective work; 3 were for infringements of the time limits for being held in custody; one for unlawful use of special means and 2 – for unlawful behaviour towards people detained. Last year 65 people made complaints in person to assistants to the Minister about ill-treatment from police officers, while overall 90 statements regarding ill-treatment were considered. Over possible cases where police officers had infringed the absolute ban on the use of torture and ill-treatment, 119 official checks were initiated, of which 25 were carried out by officers of the Internal Security Service, 50 by a special team inspection, and 44 by officers of other services.
Environmentalists in no doubt as to why O. Goncharov was murdered
A press conference was held on 2 June by environmentalists, journalists and civic activists entitled “Who is behind the murder of a defender of Zhukiv Island”?
As already reported, at midday on 26 May outside his own home 59-year old Oleksandr Goncharov was murdered by two assailants. His wife was badly beaten.
Two days before his death, Mr Goncharov had taken part in an action to stop the illegal extraction, deposition and sale of sand at Zhukiv Island by several commercial firms.
Volodymyr Boreiko, Head of the Kyiv Environmental-Cultural Centre:
“I am 99% certain that this crime is linked with Goncharovs attempts to hamper the illegal extraction of sand on the territory of the reserve”.
This version is given added credence by the testimony of the murdered mans wife Monika Mateova who was also assaulted during the attack on her husband. Ms Mateova speaks of the deliberate nature of the attack, the fact that the men had weapons, and recounts that they threatened her, so that she wouldnt complain about the unlawful sand extraction.
This contradicts the version from the police who claim an everyday nature of the conflict which led to the killing.
The position of the police is a cause of concern to the activists since in their public statements representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are distorting the position of Goncharovs widow, claiming that she supports their version, and believes the killing was over the hiring of a boat.
Journalist Oleksy Kutyepov who, with Goncharovs assistance, prepared a television feature on the illegal activities with sand recounts how on the eve of the tragedy, the deceased complained of threats of physical reprisals from the organizers of the sand extraction. Kutyepov stressed that the murder had taken place almost immediately after they had, with Goncharovs help, taken video footage of the illegal extraction.
Deputy Head of the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine Oleksy Vasylyuk explained that at present there are three court cases in progress over the reserve and initiated by the Prosecutors Office and the public. Over the last six months two criminal investigations have been launched over the illegal extraction of sand.
Yet neither the court cases, nor the courts, nor the decision of the profile committee of the Verkhovna Rada seem able to stop the destruction of the reserve. The participants in the press conference stated that the illegal extract of sand is still continuing which they see as evidence of the authorities incompetence.
They are initiating a public investigation, and a campaign of supervision over the official investigation. They demand that the immediate perpetrators, as well as those who found the killing convenient be punished as soon as possible.
Police detain suspect over the murder of Oleksandr Goncharov
According to the Public Relations Department of the Kyiv Police, one of the people suspected of having ordered the murder of environmentalist and defender of the ecosystem of the reserve territory Zhukiiv Island, Oleksandr Goncharov has been arrested.
The report states that at the beginning of the investigation, three versions had been considered – murder over debt; conflict with fishermen who had often tried to go along the Dnipro through the territory which Mr Goncharov had effectively squatted, or that the murder was connected with Mr Goncharovs attempts to obstruct the illegal extraction of sand near Zhukiv Island.
The police have concluded that the last version is correct. They believe that they have established one of those who ordered the killing and say that the other is in hiding, and will shortly be placed on the wanted list. They say that an attempt was made to present the killing as the result of conflict with fishermen. Those who carried out the killing have not been found.
The Head of the Kyiv Police has also issued an instruction that the relevant services and units stop the work of those involved in the illegal extraction of sand within the administrative borders of the capital.
As reported here, Oleksandr Goncharov was murdered on 26 May by two assailants. His wife was badly beaten. During the past two years he had been active in trying to stop the illegal extraction and sale of sand from Zhukiv Island by several commercial firms.
During the two days before his murder, Mr Goncharov accompanied a filming team from TV Channel ICTV to the place where the sand was being removed. The coverage led to the police being called and the extraction stopped.
Court protects the regional landscape park “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya”
On 3 June, two days before World Environment Day, the High Administrative Court handed down a judgment in favour of A. Galkina and O. Malytsky who had filed law suits against the Mykolaiv Regional Council and the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom., as represented by the Southern Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant.
The saga, as reported here, is long and by no means over, however this new decision is very much to be welcomed.
In dispute are 27 72 hectares of the regional landscape park “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya” which last year was voted one of Ukraines Seven Wonders.
On 6 July 2006 the Mykolaiv Regional Council adopted the decision to remove 27.72 hectares from this State-owned regional landscape park hand it over to Energoatom. The latter wants to make this area the tail end of the Alexandrovsky Reservoir, this meaning that a substantial area of what should be national reserve land will be flooded.
Environmentalists had already endeavoured to dissuade the Council from taking this move. The arguments are clear: the decision breached legislation and Ukraines international commitments; would cause irreparable damage to an area of natural and historical importance; adversely affect the quality of drinking water in the basin of the Southern Bug River and could cause flooding in future.
The Mykolaiv Regional Council proved impervious to reason, and took their decision which was appealed against by the same two people A. Galkina and O. Malytsky, who were represented by the renowned environmental protection lawyer Olha Melen.
On 22 January 2007 the first instance court agreed that the Councils decision violated the publics right to take part in drawing up and carrying out measures aimed at protection and rational use of natural resources.
It found that the decision had been unlawful and unwarranted and therefore revoked it.
The Mykolaiv Regional Council and Energoatom appealed, and unfortunately the Odessa Administrative Court of Appeal revoked the first instance court ruling.
Now, following a cassation appeal, on 3 June 2009 the High Administrative Court revoked the Appeal Courts ruling and sent the case back for new examination.
To be continued …
UHHRU Appeal over the latest violation of refugee rights
Documents received recently by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union indicate that in July 2008 Ukraine violated one of the fundamental principles regarding the protection of refugees rights, the principle of confidentiality, by passing information contained in refugees files to the country of their origin.
On 28 March 2006 Kazakhstan nationals Z. Baisakov, Y. Baisakov, S. Gorbenko and A. Zhekebaev were granted refugee status in Ukraine. In 2007 the Kyiv Prosecutors Office carried out a check and found that the decision to grant them refugee status had been lawful.
On 8 April 2008 the Kazakhstan Prosecutor General sent Ukraines Prosecutor Generals Office a request for legal assistance under the 1993 Minsk Convention in which it asked for original letters of opposition political leaders of Kazakhstan attached to the person files of those four refugees.
On 15 July 2008 an SBU [Security Service] investigator removed from the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion originals of letters containing an assessment of the situation in Kazakhstan and a conclusion regarding the political motives for the persecution of the asylum seekers.
In addition, at the request of the Kazakhstan Prosecutor Genera, several representatives of the State Committee were questioned regarding issues connected with the granting of refugee status to the above-mentioned Kazakhstan nationals.
At the end of July 2008 these originals of documents on the cases of refugees and the interrogation protocols of representatives of the State Committee were handed over to the Kazakhstan Prosecutor Generals Office.
At the present time these documents are evidence in a criminal case against Bolat Abilov, Leader of the “Azat” Party, Asilbek Kozhakmetov, Leader of the opposition movement “Shanirak” and Tolen Tokhtasinov, Head of the Kazakhstan Communist Party involving charges “of concealing a crime” this being reflected in providing information to Ukraines State Committee on Nationalities and Religion.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has documented proof that the information was handed over to Kazakhstan by Ukrainian State authorities.
Providing confidential information on cases of refugees is in flagrant breach of Article 11 of the Law “On refugees” which states that “information given by the application is confidential”.
The principle of confidentiality is a foundation of protection of refugees rights and its violation can lead to a breakdown of the entire system of protection of refugees. In its Opinion № 91(LII) – 2001 the Executive Committee of the UNHCR states that “The registration process should abide by the fundamental principles of confidentiality”. It also stresses “the confidential nature of personal data and the need to continue to protect confidentiality»,
The passing of confidential information to the country of origin can lead to many undesirable consequences. The violation of this principle deprives refugees and asylum seekers of the possibility of freely and without fear justifying their applications for refugee status. It also prevents the competent bodies from receiving and assessing information from sources which are not under the control of the authorities in the country of origin of the people involved, since it puts any person (relatives, friends, or other observers) in that country in danger of persecution. Furthermore, as a result of the passing of information to the country of origin, the asylum seekers themselves can, from that moment, have grounds for well-founded fears of being returned to their county of origin.
The manner in which the Ukrainian authorities behaved during the handing over of confidential information from personal files of refugees to their country of origin gives grounds for believing that this is usual practice.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union would note that this is not the first case where Ukraines authorities have violated fundamental refugee rights. The extradition of asylum seekers to Uzbekistan in 2006, the deportation of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, the extradition of recognized refugee Oleg Kuznetsov to the Russian Federation have seriously impinged on Ukraines standing in the international community.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union demands:
that the Prosecutor Generals Office, the Security Service of Ukraine and the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion adhere to legislation and international standards regarding the protection of refugees rights and that they do not pass confidential information about refugees on to their country of origin;
that the Prosecutor Generals Office carry out an urgent investigation into the passing of confidential information from the personal files of refugees to their country of origin or to other country and bring those responsible to answer, both in this case and in any other cases.
Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Ukraine – no hospitable place for refugees
An interview given by Maxim Butkevych, coordinator of “Without borders” on the eve of World Refugee Day
- Ukraine has signed the main conventions protecting the rights of refugees. What do they commit us to do?
Speaking from a legal point of view, Ukraine has signed a number of conventions. These are the Convention on the Status of a Refugee, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture. Thus we have taken on certain commitments according to which our country, for example, does not have the right to extradite a person to a country where he will probably be tortured, and could be killed.
However in our case the mandatory nature of the laws is compensated by it not being compulsory to enforce them. Violations regularly occur. Ukraine has handed over refugees (strictly speaking, asylum seekers – translator] to Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka. The latest big scandal was in December last year. Uzbek Abdumalik Bakaev came to Ukraine and applied for asylum on the grounds that he could be subjected to repression in his country. He went to the official bodies and made an application which gave the address he was living at in Ukraine. He was told to return in a couple of days, however the next day he was detained by the police, and it took enormous effort to get him back (cf. http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1228763320 )
Is it possible to say that Ukraine extradites everybody theyre asked to?
No, far from all. Where the case becomes public and human rights organizations intervene, as a rule, the extraditions dont happen.
Is there a high chance of being granted asylum in Ukraine?
About one percent of asylum seekers receive refugee status. However it is important to understand that for refugees Ukraine remains first of all a transit country, and not their destination. There are, of course, people who choose Ukraine as their home, settle here, learn the language, often in fact, Ukrainian, set down roots. However these are the isolated few. After all people seeking asylum here dont have any social assistance while theyre applying.
On the other hand, and unlike many other countries, asylum seekers in Ukraine have the right to work
Thats true, however for getting a job you need a special work permit, and asylum seekers dont usually have it. In practice, therefore, its all like this: when the police see an Uzbek selling shaurma, they take him to the police station. If they need money for some reason that evening they say “Come on, man, heres your phone, ring your friends, get them to bring 200 UAH for you (around 30 USD, and a lot – translator). If they need statistics about how well they fight immigrants, they hold him till the court, and then read him the law about a work permit which an asylum seeker of course doesnt have. As a result he ends up with a three hundred UA fine. In a while it all happens again: the police need money, and know who hasnt got a passport. It can go on for months. For example, one Uzbek was detained four times in a month and a half.
Which is the largest group of refugees in Ukraine?
The largest group is people from Afghanistan. They began coming here in large numbers after the full of the Najibullah regime. In 1993 the first Law on Refugees was passed in Ukraine which had a lot of unjust things. For example, a person couldnt apply for refugee status if hed been here more than three days. And this was at a time when the people transporting them could drop them anywhere, and it could be a week and a half before they found out.
That was also the case with Somalis. They came to the migration office and were told: go back. however Afghanis did actually get refugee status, after all they couldnt go back. Now people from that country get refugee status quite often. However its not those Afghanis who came earlier, but their children whove reached 18.
Uzbeks quite often come here, especially since the events in Andijon. They had great hopes for Ukraine and there was even a tent on Maidan [Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Independence Square] during the Orange Revolution. Members of the Uzbek opposition brought cotton bushes from their country hoping to develop our cotton industry. It soon became clear how naïve their ideas were.
What about Chechens?
From 2002-2003 Chechens havent been granted refugee status at all. They dont even apply now. There was politics in this, of course, but also subjective reasons. A person comes to the migration office, for example, and says: “Im a refugee, I fled, my city got bombed”. – “OK”, theyre told, “But were you persecuted?” “The person explains that the village was bombed, talks about how Russian Federal Forces or the fighters murdered his mother, raped his sister. The migration officer will say that all thats terrible, war is very bad, but that the person himself was not persecuted as such, and he doesnt fall under the Convention. Some countries have status of war refugee, however Ukraine does not.
Why does Ukraine grant so few people refugee status? Is it officials who drag it out deliberately?
No, more likely the efficiency of the system itself. Constant reforms to the Committee on Nationalities and Religion are an obstacle – its already undergone restructuring nearly eight times since it was formed. Each time its work stops for around six months while the personnel understand whats in their jurisdiction and whats not. Secondly, the regional services which dont have the people or enough money work badly. For example, in the Transcarpathian region in the migration office there are maybe two, or three officials. In Chernihiv – two. At the moment theyve created a centre for foreign nationals illegally in the country where many apply for asylum. If before there were dozens a year, there are now dozens of applications a month.
Where do they come from to Ukraine or via Ukraine?
Mainly from Pakistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Somali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Armenians, Georgians, Chinese – followers of Falun Dafa. There are also refugees from Russian however in the main not from Chechnya, but opposition “natsboly” [National Bolshevik Party, led by Limonov].
The “natsboly” seek protection here, yet behave in a disloyal way to the Ukrainian State, to the President
Theres an interesting point. On the one hand, If youve been taken in, be good, and dont cause trouble. On the other, you havent had the public denials of the existence of the Ukrainian State from those who are in the country for a long time, and from refugees never. As far as their attitude to the President, refugees have the same rights as Ukrainian citizens, beside the right to elect or be elected, including the right to express their views.
How do your average citizens view refugees?
Fortunately, aside from representatives of rightwing organizations like VO “Svoboda”, “Patriot of Ukraine”, refugees seldom encounter demonstrations of animosity. It does, admittedly, happen that the subject is exploited by officials, but they often mix the terms refugee, immigrant, illegal immigrant and foreign offender.
You often hear statements from politicians that refugees are a threat to Ukraine, take jobs away from Ukrainians
There were refugees long before any conventions. An old example: Christ was a refugee, as was Muhammed, and Einstein. They are people who bring and happily share their experience to countries, even if they are uncomfortable to live in. People who make such journeys are those who are fit for exhausting travel. They are fairly young, bright, energetic, in a word, healthy enough people. Most often they dont take jobs away form others. They work as loaders, serve in cafes, etc. A refugee friend of mine is one of the best chefs of eastern cuisine in the former Soviet Union. Usually these people are ready to carry out the most dirty work. Refugees, therefore, in no way threaten Ukraine, but on the contrary it is Ukraine which is often for them dangerous since they become victims of interference from the State and the far right. Recently there has been a clear increase in the number of attacks. In the first half of 2008 there were more than in all of 2007. This must be of concern, and in our last appeal we asked the Ukrainian authorities to either withdraw Ukraines signature from international documents or clearly observe them.
Very slightly abridged from the original at:
Mobile Groups: Monitoring vs. Control
In an article prompted by criticism not only from some members of the human rights community, but, most oddly, from the Prosecutor General, the authors clarify some fundamental misunderstandings and provide valuable information about the work of the mobile groups working within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (carrying out inspections of police stations). .
The criticism was over a supposedly insufficient number of abuses uncovered and culprits punished; the fact that there are still widespread cases of torture or inappropriate treatment of detainees; insufficient response from the police to the mobile groups reports.
The authors point out that the standard fixation with the number of criminal or official investigations, etc, as indicator of efficiency, reflects a misunderstanding of their role. Such duties are, in fact, those of the Prosecutor Generals Office, as is ensuring a prompt and adequate reaction to cases where detainees rights have been violated.
Mobile and other monitoring groups
Monitoring is these days recognized as a method for improving defence of human rights.
The very fact of these mobile groups visiting police stations is a great step forward since the groups include not only police personnel, but representatives of the public.
Such monitoring work is gradually gaining momentum in Ukraine. By the beginning of June 2009 around 700 visits had been made by mobile groups. The system is not yet fully developed in all regions.
The most systematic and effective mobile groups are in the Crimea; the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Volyn, Vinnytsa, Zhytomyr and Zaporizhya regions (oblasts), and in Sevastopol.
There are virtually no visits in the Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytsky, Kirovohrad, Lviv and Ternopil regions, or in Kyiv.
In fact, on the basis of mobile group reports dozens of checks have been made and disciplinary measures taken against negligent police officers. These are, however, only the accompanying tasks achieved through monitoring. The main achievement has been the discussion of analytical material on the problems of special institutions (for holding people) at an MIA board meeting. This resulted, for example, in temporary holding facilities [ITT] being equipped with quartz radiators which is an important prophylactic step against tuberculosis. And while the mobile groups are permanently aware of issues regarding the conditions in which people are held, it is this kind of achievement that should be the indicator of their work.
UN monitors stress the objective of monitoring work being to increase public responsibility for protecting human rights, and to have a preventive effective. [Training manual on HR Monitoring, University of Minnesota www.umn.edu/humanrts/monitoring/chapter5.htm ]l. Thus, monitoring does not replace the work of the police, but supplements and enhances some police functions. .
While the authors in no way suggest that violations identified not be responded to, they believe that using this function as an indicator of effectiveness would narrow their role, and also removes the onus from the State which must itself react to abuse, checking allegations and punishing those responsible if the allegations prove warranted. These roles must be carried out by the Prosecutors Office and Internal Security Service personnel.
Monitors do not have the relevant status according to criminal procedure legislation. Their work is described by a departmental order and constitutes voluntary help to the police. The authors suggest that MIA, which has shown itself open to change, could consider increasing the authority of these monitors. The fact that monitors are not within the MIA system, not subject to hierarchical relations is both an advantage, and probably makes it easier to be independent and objective, and a restriction, meaning they can only be consultants. .Real changes need to be made by professionals with the relevant experience and education, but most of all with the relevant AUTHORITY. It is too early to think of this as yet since there are no monitors who are involved professionally at present.
For this reason, the authors would be against the suggestion of giving members of the present mobile groups control powers, extending their mandate to post-monitoring activity and doubling the work that the Prosecutors Office should be doing.
At present, they stress, the role of the monitoring groups is to help receive information, help to understand reasons, negative elements and help the authorities overcome them. To give them control functions would put an end to monitoring.
For a number of reasons effective self-monitoring of the law enforcement system is not possible. It would be a huge oversimplification to say that this was solely to do with corruption and a wish to hush up violations of human rights so as to protect the professions reputation.
A no less, perhaps even greater role is played by the entrenched ideas in the police, especially at higher level of how their work should be carried out, and what place in it all is held by human rights. They mention that other factors – infringements of the officers own rights, problems of financing, the role of public opinion, political factors, cannot be ignored.
For these reasons they view monitoring as a whole system of actions, making it possible to see and influence the system as a whole.
Effectiveness monitoring of human rights observance is therefore at present
- HELP for the State bodies
- is possible only on conditions of equality, and cooperation between representatives of the public and the authorities;
They suggest that over the next few years priority tasks should be to further develop such cooperation; build new forms and methods of cooperation; attract the attention of wide groups of society to monitoring activities and discussion of its results. Any attempts to substitute monitoring activity for control over Internal Affairs bodies by adding control functions in conditions where the culture for this monitoring is as yet undeveloped and in the absence of a network of professional monitors and lack of understanding of the aims of monitoring and adequate reaction from the authorities and public to its results could jeopardize the further develop of this activity.
Abridged from an article by Denis Kobzin and Andriy Chernoysov from the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research
Human Rights in Ukraine – 2008
The latest Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union report produced with the cooperation of 30 human rights organizations from all regions of Ukraine was made public today, 25 June 2009 in Kyiv.
The presentation came on the eve of International Day in support of Victims of Torture. No accident since the continuing use of torture and ill-treatment remains a serious problem in Ukraine.
While one of the positive features of the last year has been increased cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its creation of a special Department for Monitoring Human Rights, the problem of torture of people in police detention in order to extract a confession has yet to be resolved.
Virtually no progress at all can be seen in the State Department for the Execution of Sentences, and Ukraine continues to be in breach of its commitments before the Council of Europe with regard to this Departments status. The same problems continue year in year out: the Department is closed off and resistant to change, the complaint system is seriously inadequate and continuing protests by prisoners are often denied or misrepresented, and virtually never responded to in an adequate manner.
Not surprisingly socio-economic issues were very much in the foreground during the year, with the divide between rich and poor widening. The rise in prices and in communal charges meant that the number of those living in poverty rose. The government is clearly not prioritizing defence of human rights, and it is not surprising that people feel themselves to be unprotected.
One of the most disturbing areas where the lack of will to carry out reforms is most evident is with regard to reforming the judicial system. Vital changes which have long needed to be implemented are simply not being passed. On the other hand, 2008 saw outrageous examples where politicians made their disregard for the independence of the judiciary flagrantly clear. Together with the fact that even when justice is apparently achieved, and court rulings issued, around 70% of them are not being enforced.
The continuing use of excessive surveillance can be seen by a significant increase since 2005 in the number of warrants to intercept communications issued by appellate courts. There were 15 thousand in 2005 and more than 25 thousand in 2008. These figures significantly exceed analogous figures in European countries where more than one thousand orders are issued per year just in France and the Netherlands. A third of the warrants in 2008 were received by investigative units of the Security Service [SBU].
A particular area of concern during 2008 and into 2009 has been over encroachments on freedom of speech. The National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality became extremely active in the second half of the year, and has issued some extraordinary decisions, including a conclusion that a novel by renowned writer Oles Ulyanenko is pornographic. All of this is taking place with a law which is dangerously vague and unforeseeable, and an apparent wish to intrude in areas which cannot be considered necessary in a democracy.
One vital institution for human rights protection should be the office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson. The level of activity is woefully inadequate, as evidenced even by the failure to provide a report each year as required by the law. On Wednesday 24 June, the fifth “annual” report was presented in parliament, and has only just become available to the public today. One of the many areas where the Ombudsperson could be playing an enormous role is in national preventive mechanisms as per the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, however the list of missed opportunities is much longer.
All of this is frustratingly similar to the responses from other government institutions. Very many reforms, often prepared with the participation of human rights organizations, need only political will, yet this is lacking.
The report covers other areas of concern, including environmental rights, the rights of refugees and others. It has been published first in Ukrainian and is already available on the Internet at: http://www.helsinki.org.ua/index.php?r=a1b7c5, and will be printed in English shortly.
The Jewish card in Russian special operations against Ukraine
During his speech at an expanded session of Russias Federal Security Service (FSB), which was held on 29 January 2009, the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, revealed an FSB special operation in a few brief sentences: “An unstable sociopolitical situation persisted in a number of neighboring states, there were continued attempts to enlarge NATO, including by means of granting Georgia and Ukraine accelerated membership in the alliance. Naturally, all this required precise and well coordinated work on the part of all special security, defense, and law enforcement structures, and quite a high level of coordination of their activities. I must say straight away that on the whole the Federal Security Service successfully carried out all its tasks.”
In other words, the president of the Russian Federation openly declared that the wrecking of Ukraines planned integration into NATO was the work of the Russian special services, the result of special operations that they had put into motion. Afterwards, the Russian president thanked the FSB. This is direct acknowledgement of the fact that the Russian special services are conducting special ops against Ukraine, which are aimed at undermining its sovereignty and independence. This is a brutal violation not just of international law. This is also a brutal violation of Russian laws: the legislative base of the Russian Federation, which controls the FSBs activities, does not permit this special service to conduct such specials operations. There is not a single word about any special operations in the “Federal Law on the Federal Security Service” that was passed by the State Duma of the Russian Federation on 22 February 1995 (with all subsequent revisions). Take note: this document, which was signed by the president himself, does not contain a single word about any special operations against Ukraine, in connection with which President Medvedev recently congratulated the FSB.
However, there is a concrete stipulation among the direct tasks of the FSB concerning the halting and prevention of leaks of state and military secrets. The FSBs special operation, aimed at preventing Ukraines accession to NATO, is one of the Kremlins biggest secrets—and Mr. Dmitry Medvedev was instrumental in leaking this very secret.
The Russian special services continue to carry out special operations aimed at undermining Ukraines sovereignty and independence. The members of the FSB and Russias Foreign Intelligence Service were rewarded for their success in isolating Ukraine. In recent months, the number of personnel in the FSB structures that deal with Ukraine has increased by 1.5 times, and this increase is reminiscent of the 1950s, when the underground Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was active in Ukraine.
One aspect of Russias special operations against Ukraine is the so-called “Jewish card.” But first, a little history lesson is in order here. When did the imperialist gamblers begin playing the “Jewish card” on Ukrainian territory?
This was done in the Russian Empire.
For many years Symon Petliura was proclaimed a pogromist in the USSR. It was of no importance that one of the founders and key ideologists of Zionism, the distinguished journalist, civic and political leader Vladimir (Zeev) Zhabotinsky had a deep and abiding respect for Petliura, because Zhabotinskys own name was taboo in the Soviet Union.
Shortly after Petliura was assassinated in Paris, on the fortieth day after his death—4 July 1926—Zhabotinsky wrote an article that was published in the New York newspaper, The Jewish Morning Journal. It states in part:
Neither Petliura nor Vynnychenko, nor the rest of the distinguished members of this Ukrainian government, were ever “pogromists,” as they are called…I know this type of Ukrainian intellectual-nationalist with socialist views very well. I grew up with them; together with them I waged a struggle against anti-Semites and Russifiers—Jewish and Ukrainian. No one will ever convince me or the rest of the thinking Zionists of southern Russia that these types of people may be considered anti-Semites.
On 28 May 2009 Boris Shpigel, a Russian senator and the head of the World Congress of Russian Jewry (WCRJ), which was founded on the initiative of the Russian special services, had a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, during which he raised the topic of anti-Semitism. During their conversation he declared that “old national heroes are being restored” in Ukraine, those who committed crimes against the Jews, and “history is being rewritten by whitewashing them.” Shpigel cited the example of Symon Petliura. As the Israeli media later reported, “Mr. Netanyahu expressed concern.” It should be noted that Israels Likud Party, which is headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, represents the ideological current of Vladimir (Zeev) Zhabotinsky whose portrait hangs in this partys headquarters.
Here I quote Symon Petliura himself.
FROM THE “ORDER ISSUED BY THE MAIN COMMAND OF THE ARMIES OF THE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL REPUBLIC”—26 AUGUST 1919
It is time to realize that the world Jewish population—their children, their women—was enslaved and deprived of its national freedom, just like we were.
It should not go anywhere away from us; it has been living with us since time immemorial, sharing our fate and misfortune with us…
I decisively order that all those who will be inciting you to carry out pogroms be expelled from our army and tried as traitors of the Motherland. Let the courts try them for their actions, without sparing the criminals the severest punishments according to the law. The government of the UNR, understanding all the harm that pogroms inflict on the state, has issued a proclamation to the entire population of the land, with the appeal to oppose all measures by enemies that instigate pogroms against the Jewish population…
Chief otaman Petliura
FROM THE PROCLAMATION “AGAINST POGROMS”—12 OCTOBER 1919
Our National Army must bring equality, fraternity, and liberation to Ukrainian and Jewish citizens because the latter actively support the Government of the UNR. All their parties, like the Bund, the United [Jewish Socialists], Poalei-Zion, and the Folks-Partei have adopted the platform of Ukraines independence and are taking part in building the republic.
I myself know of cases where the members of the Jewish population assisted our army and supported the legal republican government.
I have great respect for those sacrifices that the Jewish population endured on the altar of our motherland in this struggle […]
The death penalty must fall on the heads of pogromists and provocateurs.
Chief otaman Petliura
The twentieth anniversary of the founding congress of the Peoples Movement (Rukh) of Ukraine will be marked soon. Does anyone remember how, twenty years ago, the official Soviet press frightened readers with statements, like “The members of Rukh are anti-Semites”? I remember because my congratulatory telegram was read out at Rukhs founding congress, and it ended with the Hebrew word, “Shalom!”
In early 1990 the government launched a scare campaign targeting the Jews of Kyiv. Female caretakers went around warning them: “Rukh members armed with machine guns are coming from Lviv. Dont leave your houses. There will be pogroms.” The Ukrainian philosopher Myroslav Popovych and I made it onto TV, and the provocateurs were silenced.
On 1 December 1991 an explosive device was found in a Kyiv synagogue—the day that the referendum on Ukraines independence was slated to take place. The message was clear: ‘See? They havent even managed to become independent and synagogues are being blown up. This explosive device was placed beneath Ukrainian Independence.
According to the fabrications of Moscows political technologists, manipulated by Russias special services, in 2003 and 2004 the opponents of Ukrainian presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko began disseminating rumors and publications and shooting a film about “the anti-Semitism of Yushchenko and his milieu.” In December 2003 Victor Yushchenko greeted the Jews of Ukraine on Hanukkah. No such message was prepared in the administration of President Leonid Kuchma. In his message to the Jews of Ukraine during Hanukkah, and later during Passover, Victor Yushchenko emphasized: “The history of the Jews has much to teach all of us.” Citing a line from a poem by Ukraines greatest female poet Lesia Ukrainka, he said: “And you, my Ukraine, once struggled like Israel.” At that time, I informed the Jewish community of Ukraine that during the Second World War Victor Yushchenkos mother, who was living in the village of Khoruzhivka, risked her life by hiding three Jewish girls from the city of Romny—for one and a half years.
At that point the campaign to smear Victor Yushchenko as an anti-Semite fizzled out. The film production, which had already cost a considerable amount of money, was halted. We won on Independence Square.
But the Russian special services continue to play the “Jewish card” in their special operations against Ukraine.
In mid-April 2008 the Russian Internet site IA_REGNUM posted information claiming that an Israeli historian named Yury Vilner had published a book entitled Andrii Yushchenko: The Person and the “Legend.” The following sentence instantly began circulating from website to website: “The research proves that during the Second World War the father of the president of Ukraine may have been a camp policeman and Nazi informer.” Few people paid any attention to the stylistic shortcoming of the phrase “proves that…he may have been.” Later, the text of this “book” ended up on the Internet. I started reading it. The book contained the dedication, “To the humanist Aron Shneer.”
Who is Aron Shneer? I finally remembered that the Israeli journalist Mikhail Kheifetz—the same former Soviet political prisoner who wrote brilliant reminiscences of the Ukrainian poet and political prisoner Vasyl Stus—cited Aron Shneer in one of his articles. Dr. Aron Shneer is a Yad Vashem researcher and scholar. I telephoned him. It turns out that he had read the text of the “investigation” on the Internet, but had no idea who Yury Vilner was. The Russian website www.regnum.ru claimed: “This book, published in Israel, has appeared in Moscow,” but no one either in Israel or in Russia—or anywhere else for that matter—neither scholars nor journalists knew about the existence of this “Israeli.”
I started looking at the books ISBN, the unique numeric commercial identifier, which is 969-228-292-5. The first three numbers indicate the country where the book was published. It turns out that “969” is Pakistan. One could, therefore, assume that the book was assigned its registration number in this country. But a search of this publication in the ISBN databank showed that such a book did not exist. This means that the ISBN was fabricated, and hence the “book” itself and its “author” are fabrications created and launched into circulation by means of anti-Ukrainian special operations whose goal is to create difficulties in Ukrainian-Israeli relations, cause mischief between the Ukrainians and Jews, and alarm the international community by exposing the “dark pages of the fascist past” of the Ukrainian presidents father. Within a few days after this book appeared on the www.regnum.ru website, on 18 April 2008 this fabrication was exposed simultaneously on the pages of the Kyiv-based newspaper Ukraina moloda and an Israeli website, which information quickly spread throughout the Internet. Another anti-Ukrainian special operation was nipped in the bud.
In its imperialistic frenzy, which stems from its acute inferiority complex, the Russian leadership, with the help of its special services, is trying to brainwash both the international community and Russian society with its Ukrainophobia, and through the mass media and agents of influence which they control—a certain segment of Ukraines population.
In playing the “Jewish card” in their special operations against Ukraine, the Russian special services are exploiting their “Putin-Juden,” particularly Moscow-based rabbis.
The following statements are taken from the website of the “Eurasian Youth Movement”:
Rabbis and Eurasians joining forces in the struggle against Nazism
21 August 2007
On 20 August an official meeting took place at the synagogue located on Spasoglenishchevskii Pereulok [Lane] in Moscow between the leader of the Eurasian Youth Movement, Pavel Zarifullin, and the chief rabbi of Russia, Adolf Shaevich. During the talks the leader of the EYM and the chief rabbi of Russia reached the conclusion that they have one common enemy—contemporary Ukrainian neo-Nazism, the quasi-official ideology of the “Orange” government of Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine.
From the Novosti portal “Eurasia”:
Eurasians and Jews are for traditionalism and against Ukrainian state fascism
11 November 2008
On 11 November a meeting took place in the Moscow synagogue located in Mariina Roshcha between the chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, and the head of the main administration of the International “Eurasian Movement,” Pavel Zarifullin.
During the talks Rabbi Lazar expressed his profound concern in connection with the revival of Nazism in Ukraine and the Baltic republics. He discussed the awarding of the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to the SS executioner Shukhevych. Russias chief rabbi emphasized that Ukraines accession to the EU and other international organizations should be prevented, and he appealed to the guests to use their connections and reputations in the struggle against the restoration of Nazism.
On 17 September 2008 the well-known Russian journalist Aleksandr Prokhanov and editor of the newspaper Zavtra (Tomorrow)—of whom it is said, “What Putin has on his mind, Prokhanov has on his tongue”—the same Prokhanov who openly calls himself an imperialist—was interviewed by the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “Stalin is becoming the face of Russia…Russia is a potential superpower. Otherwise, it will fall apart.” He went on to declare: “We have achieved this very crisis in Ukraine.” In reply to the female journalists question, “What must be done right now?” he said: “Yushchenko must be neutralized.”
High-ranking Russian politicians, particularly the mayor of Moscow, are publicly issuing claims to Ukrainian territory. Cultivated and welcomed by the Russian leadership, provocateurs are plundering national Ukrainian hallowed sites on Mt. Hoverla, and shredding and trampling the Ukrainian flag near the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel. During a press conference held on 28 October 2008 Vitaly Churkin, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation at the UN, made the following comment about the Holodomor, the Great Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine: “…the Ukrainian government is using this question in order to create mischief between our two fraternal nations and sow discord between our peoples…No matter what repressions or actions were carried out by the Stalinist regime, it cannot be called the primary cause of the Famine…And it is wrong to say that the Stalinist regime was against the Ukrainian people.”
I dont know if Churkin the diplomat has ever read Forever Flowing, a book about the Holodomor that was written by the famous Russian writer Vasily Grossman. I dont know if Mr. Churkin reads anything besides “instructions from the Center.” But his statement is nothing but shameless profanity. The other comments that he made during that press conference at the UN headquarters are also nothing but shameless profanity and arrogant lies. I quote: “…The second question…which, in my opinion, has a definite, logical connection with the first, is the question of the heroization of Nazism…In his edict bestowing an award on one of the odious members of the Ukrainian Nazi movement, the President of Ukraine called Mr. Shukhevych, who was a Nazi, a hero…Do you remember that thousands of Jews were killed on the territory of Kyiv? The majority of the people who were killing Jews in Babyn Yar were Ukrainian Nazis.”
“Ukrainian Nazis”? In other words, some Ukrainians who were supposedly members of Hitlers National Socialist German Workers Party, the NSDAP, were shooting Jews in Babyn Yar, and not Germans from the Einsatzkommando? “Shukhevych, who was a Nazi”? In other words, Shukhevych, who was supposedly a member of the Nazi Party yet was based in Galicia, was in some fashion involved in the shootings in Babyn Yar? Anyone who says this is either an ignoramus or a disinformation specialist. I hope that Mr. Churkin is at least not an ignoramus.
I would like to remind Mr. Churkin that from 1939 to 1941 the USSR, whose successor today is the Russian Federation, was an ally of Nazi Germany. How can one forget all those movie reels showing the joint Soviet-German military parades? I would also like to remind him of the way the special disinformation operation targeting Roman Shukhevych, the Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), is being conducted today. Initially, a story was planted in the mass media, claiming that Shukhevych was an “SS captain.” The rebuttal to the disinformation specialists was that there was never any such rank. Then the disinformation specialists transformed Shukhevych into some sort of Obersturmfuehrer. It was explained to them that in order for an individual to become a member of the SS, he had to expend a lot of effort on proving his Aryan origins, which Shukhevych naturally did not have.
Then the disinformation specialists planted another story in the mass media, this one claiming that Shukhevych had received a military decoration from Hitler himself. They were reminded that the only person had ever received a military decoration from Hitler was Himmler. According to documents stored in Germanys Military Archive in Freiburg, the Commander in Chief of the UPA was never awarded any German decoration.
But the disinformation specialists desperately need to discredit not only General Shukhevych and the UPA but the entire Ukrainian national liberation movement, as well as the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.
So they have resorted to an old Soviet secret police provocation by playing the “Jewish card”: they accuse some Ukrainians of destroying Jews, and others of turning into heroes those whom they were allegedly destroying. This is a well-known device: turn the Jews away from the Ukrainian renaissance, turn the Jews and the entire civilized world away from those who seek to restore a genuine Ukrainian Ukraine—Ukrainian in spirit, language, and remembrance of its geniuses and heroes—a Ukrainian Ukraine for all those who live in that country today, regardless of ethnic origins.
In 1942-43 Natalia Shukhevych, the wife of UPA Commander in Chief Roman Shukhevych, hid a young Jewish girl named Ira Reichenberg in her home. General Shukhevych prepared a fake passport for the girl in the name of Iryna Ryzhko. When the Gestapo arrested Mrs. Shukhevych, the little girl was brought to an orphanage based at a convent located in the village of Kulykiv in the Lviv region. There the little girl survived the German occupation and the war. In 2007 Iryna Ryzhko died in Kyiv, where her son Volodymyr lives.
I recounted all this during my briefing at Ukraines Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 3 November 2008.
President Victor Yushchenko has instituted state recognition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The mass media in Russia and beyond its borders, which are manipulated by Russias special services, have unfolded a frantic smear campaign against the UPA, which is accused of complicity in the destruction of the Jews. On 14 October 2008, the Feast of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the day set aside to pay homage to UPA soldiers—I gave an interview to the BBC. Here is a fragment:
The claim that “the UPA engaged in anti-Jewish actions” is a provocation engineered by Moscow. It is a provocation. It is a lie that the UPA destroyed Jews. Tell me: how could the UPA have destroyed Jews when Jews were serving members of the UPA? I knew a Jew who served in the UPA. I also knew Dr. Abraham Shtertser, who settled in Israel after the war. There was Samuel Noiman whose [UPA] codename was Maksymovych. There was Shai Varma (codename Skrypal/Violinist). There was Roman Vynnytsky whose codename was Sam.
There was another distinguished figure in the UPA, a woman by the name of Stella Krenzbach, who later wrote her memoirs. She was born in Bolekhiv, in the Lviv region. She was the daughter of a rabbi, she was a Zionist, and in Bolekhiv she was friends with Olia, the daughter of a [Ukrainian] Greek-Catholic priest. In 1939 Stella Krenzbach graduated from Lviv Universitys Faculty of Philosophy. From 1943 she served in the UPA as a nurse and intelligence agent. In the spring of 1945 she was captured by the NKVD while meeting a courier in Rozhniativ. She was imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death. Later, this Jewish woman was sprung from prison by UPA soldiers. In the summer of 1945 she crossed into the Carpathian Mountains together with a group of Ukrainian insurgents, and on 1 October 1946 she reached the British Zone of Occupation in Austria. Eventually, she reached Israel. In her memoirs Stella Krenzbach writes:
“I attribute the fact that I am alive today and devoting all the strength of my thirty-eight years to a free Israel only to God and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. I became a member of the heroic UPA on 7 November 1943. In our group I counted twelve Jews, eight of whom were doctors.”
I trust that the Ukrainian state will name all of these individuals. The Ukrainian state will proclaim as heroes these people who, although they were not ethnic Ukrainians, fought for Ukraines independence. To me personally, the UPA is sacred. In my opinion, the UPA is sacred to all individuals who, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, have a bit of Ukraine in their souls.
Russias special services are seeking to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, undermine its sovereignty and independence, create a negative image of this country, block its integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and turn Ukraine into a dependent and manipulated satellite. In their special operations against Ukraine they attribute exceptional importance to the “Jewish card.”
They want to set the Ukrainians and Jews against each other by means of the well known method of “Divide and conquer.” They will not succeed in either dividing us or ruling over us.
Moses Fishbein is a distinguished Ukrainian poet and translator, winner of the Vasyl Stus Prize, and a member of the Ukrainian Center of the International PEN Club and the National Union of Writers of Ukraine. Academician Ivan Dziuba calls him a “Poetby the Grace of God.” He is listed in various world encyclopedias. He is the recipient of Ukraines Order of Prince Yaroslav Mudry, V Degree, and the Order of Holy Prince Volodymyr the Great, Equal to the Apostles, III Degree.
No more tanks?
20 years ago, on 5 June 1989, one man stopped a tank. He will be remembered this week in many countries, that young man without a name, without a past or future. For millions of television viewers there were only those moments when he refused to let the tanks pass (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-nXT8lSnPQ). For people from the Soviet Union and its satellites there were numerous associations, all of them painful. It was, after all, in their countries that a totalitarian regime used tanks to mow down those unwilling to submit.
And a young man stopped them in their tracks. Surely a pure gift for Hollywood, only reality stubbornly slips out of those glossy frames. The tanks were coming from the bloody crushing of student protest on Tiananmen Square. Each of us must decide for ourselves why the young man did not back off. He was finally dragged away and nobody really knows what happened to him. Deepest respect to him.
There is little triumphant fanfare for another reason. The young man is remembered in many countries, only not in China where for 20 years the regime has tried to say as little as it can about the carnage on Tiananmen Square. Key search machines have obliged, helping China block the Internet. The national media are mute, inconvenient subjects are avoided in schools and, as it turns out, the Internet can be kept under lock and key.
Where theres the will to do so, of course, however the authorities generally demonstrate such a will, and if they encounter little annoying opposition at home or abroad, why restrain themselves? The attention of the international community was, shall we say, distracted by Chinas burgeoning economy, nuclear weapons and permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
I assume the same was true of Russia for a long time after Putin came to power. Theres nothing new in this. The rose-tinted glasses worn by some and cold calculation of others had made it possible to not notice the “inconvenient” for decades.
No attempt here to attribute blame. Who is not attracted by glossy packaging and fine words, especially when they assure everybody that the past is well and truly gone? No mechanisms were introduced either in Ukraine, or in Russia, however for a long time the words were just fine. Freedom, democracy, rule of law - what more could you ask?
In Russia they first dealt with the television channels, though newspapers were not forgotten. By the time of the attack on the school in Beslan it was easy to brazenly lie, and this they did. Since 2007 the lies have been systematically turned into a component part of the school curriculum, while now theyre branching out into history and all the humanities.
It is worth recalling Putins words back in 2007 regarding “positive moves” in the treatment of history in new textbooks. Put most concisely, the more thats positive the better, while even the negative – i.e. Stalin, the Terror and millions of victims, can be presented in a positive light, even “understood”.
These positive strides are continuing and indeed it is only marches of “positive thinkers” that are not broken up these days in Russia. There are, admittedly, difficulties for many in the interpretation of “positive”. Entirely immediate problems could also arise if the State Duma passes the new draft law imposing criminal liability for denying the Kremlin-endorsed single correct and positive version of the Soviet Unions role in the Second World War.
Information about the new “History Commission” aimed at countering “efforts to falsify history to the detriment of Russia” sped around the world. Commendable vigilance from journalists, perhaps, but the extraordinary speed makes one wonder whether we are seeing the same motivation that prompts skinheads to seek any publicity, however negative. Well make them tremble! And what can you say about a commission “on countering falsification of history” which is made up not of historians, but of representatives of the Presidents Administration, the Federal Security Service [FSB], other enforcement agencies, etc? The task is clear.
I dont know whether certain psychotic behaviour is contagious, or whether the problem lies solely in the lack of mechanisms to prevent regression, however certain trends in Ukraine, including the calls for more “positive notes” in the media, arouse concern.
We could begin with the draft “Doctrine of Ukraines Information Security” which the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine effectively copied from a similar document from the analogous body of the neighbouring Russian Federation. The document fairly teems with dangerously woolly terms which specialists from the Council of Europe back in 2007 suggested Ukraine shed once and for all, as well as the normal mass of fine-sounding and meaningless phrases. The authors (or translators from Russian?) of this “Ukrainian” version of a doctrine on information security clearly prefer to communicate only in what we will loosely term post-Soviet language. A great shame since they have created a document which can present only insurmountable difficulties for translators into any European language, and strain the intellectual capacity of all those accustomed to dealing with the fundamental concepts of a law-based democracy.
The term used throughout the document “information security” remains elusively hard to fathom with the only certainty being that it means vastly more than what an English speaker would understand. .The list of similar terms is long and they are used to speak of tasks which have no relation to the duties of the State in a democratic country. According to the draft Doctrine “the safeguarding of Ukraines information security is based on the principles … of ensuring that information is accurate, full and unbiased”. Meaningless gobbledygook most certainly, but when it runs counter to all principles of pluralism and the role of the State in a democratic country, we can hardly speak of fine words. And what we are to understand by “prophylactic measures and neutralization of offences in the information sphere” I leave to others to unravel.
Who is supposed to safeguard “accurate, full and unbiased” material on history in todays Russia is, unfortunately, clear. And in Ukraine?
The SBU [Security Service] has of late been actively engaged in the declassifying of documents about Holodomor and repression. This is undoubtedly to be welcomed, however with regard to their decision to initiate a criminal case on charges of genocide in Ukraine over Holodomor 1932-1933 I have serious reservations. What is most disturbing is the political nature of this move which will probably have no legal consequences but will sharpen conflict and division within the country. There is no consensus even among those who agree that Holodomor was an act of genocide as to this particular move by the Security Service. I find it difficult to view with understanding the decision to concentrate only on Holodomor, or on the murder of the nationalist leader Roman Shukhevych, as though the Terror of 1937-1938 had never happened. Or as if the crimes of the Soviet regime ended with the death of Stalin. Another question just wont go away. If in Soviet times the KGB loyally served a criminal regime, and now its successor is serving a different regime, but just as loyally, what will happen if the regime changes again In Ukraine?
Nor do we even have to overly stretch our imagination. It is quite enough to observe the increasingly inadequate behaviour of the National Expert Commission on the Protection of Public Morality [the Commission]. It is presently awaiting an external assessment from various specialists, however back in March it found that the Russian documentary film “Holodomor 1933: unlearned lessons of history” contained propaganda of national and religious enmity”. I havent seen the film but I assume it differs little from various revolting texts Ive read. They make me angry and sometimes I hurtle to respond – with words, arguments, evidence, not with calls to ban the work or punish its authors. A ban of what we find outrageous or offensives today creates an extremely dangerous precedent. At a meeting on 28 May, one member of this incomprehensible State body called on his colleagues to “pay attention to the writings of Oles Buzyna in the newspaper “Segodnya” [“Today”]. “In this newspaper they discredit outstanding Ukrainian figures, and choose the most shameful parts of our history”, Mr Kononenko asserted”. He clearly saw no need to become familiar with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to criticism of public figures which I in turn find rather baffling since the case law of the European Court is a source of law in Ukraine also. With regard to Buzyna and his attacks even against the great poet Taras Shevchenko, what can you say? Nothing positive, thats for sure, however the danger from banning or restricting his writing would, I am convinced, far outweigh any damage caused by his primitive nonsense. The question again refuses to be quashed: if the regime changes then who will the new members of the Commission go for?
Just over a year ago some staggeringly silly words spoken by Buzyna about a notorious “Hitler doll” supposedly enjoying popularity among Ukrainian families gained much more publicity than they deserved. Lots of people asked indignantly why the government was “doing nothing”. What precisely the government was supposed to do I did not understand then, and continue to be in the dark about now.
One should not underestimate the danger from people or forces attempting to spread enmity or destabilize the country. However any measures which foist certain views or political correctness in the interpretation of historical events contradict fundamental principles of pluralism of views and under certain conditions can turn into a dictatorship of “the only possible” version of history or the truth. After decades of repression and millions of victims we should not deceive ourselves, especially since we can observe Russia slipping back. However fine-sounding the words may be, the result of any game, including of a political variety, is determined by the rules we follow. We already know all too well which rules lead to intellectual stagnation, censorship, persecution of dissidents and tanks.
Monthly bulletin Prava Ludyny (Human rights), 2009, №06